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Kenyans bracing to root for athletes at start of Olympic track events

12 August 2016, 15:26

Nairobi (Xinhua) -- Friday will mark one week since the 2016 Rio Olympic Games kicked off in Brazil.

However, Kenyans are eagerly waiting for the commencement of the track and field events on Friday where the country has prospects of winning medals.

One place where residents will be watching the races with keen interest and relish is Iten town, located in the Great Rift Valley.

It has always been a trend during subsequent events at the Olympic Games for Kenyan runners to win medals in track and field where they have never failed to win an Olympic gold since the country first participated at the global competition in 1956.

Whereas other nations have already won medals from 'fringe' events, Kenyans back home will from henceforth start flocking social joints to watch live televised coverage of the races as they share the excitement with each other.

Former 10,000m world champion, Moses Tanui, told Xinhua on Thursday he will host his friends and fellow athletes at his hotel in Eldoret, aptly named Grand Prix, to watch and cheer Team Kenya during their exploits.

"Even though our cheering will not amount to much because the runners will not be in a position to hear our loud encouragement, nonetheless, we will perform the task in what we consider to be patriotic duty," he said.

Former world marathon record holder, Wilson Kipsang said he will make time to watch the live proceedings alongside his compatriots in Iten town, popularly referred to as the 'Home of Champions' at his facility, Keelu Resort.

"Watching the men's marathon finals is 'a must' undertaking with a group of marathon runners during which we will strategize against the those runners who we will run against after the Olympics in upcoming races," he told Xinhua in Iten.

Most of the runners who comprise the Kenyan contingent are either natives of the municipality or have adopted the high altitude town as their training base.

The small borough, which stands at 7,900ft above-sea-level, is favored by many Kenyan elite middle and long-distance runners for being one of the best places to train due to the advantage they derive from high altitude training, its tranquility, the perfect climate and the great dirt trails.

Almost all of Kenya's top athletes have at one time or the other hugged the hilly terrain when preparing for international races.

Defending 1,500m Olympic champion, Asbel Kiprop, his teammate in the event, Ronald Kwemoi, 5,000m contestant Charles Mneria and a host of other runners Xinhua met in the town before the team flew to Rio, all said their training programs went according to plan.

"We did not leave early with the other members of the team because we wanted to derive maximum benefit from the high altitude training and fly to the Olympic city with only a few days remaining for competition for the purposes of acclimatizing," Mneria said.

Long distance athletics coach, Elias Kiptum, said many athletics clubs have set base in the area where they assist their charges with amenities like rent, food and training kit so that the runners carry out full time training.

"The weather in Iten is relatively stable and everyone around seems to have caught the running bug. Currently there are over 3,000 first-class runners around," Kiptum said.

Iten's journey to fame started many years ago, when an Irish teacher Colm O'Connel, who was the principal of the local St. Patrick's High School, discovered that many of his students had a talent for running.

He organized running camps during the school holidays for the talented runners from his school and those from other parts of Kenya.

The town grew as more and more runners made the town there adopted home and some even settled permanently there.

For the past 30 years, all of Kenya's world and Olympic champions have trained in Iten. They include Wilson Kipketer and David Rudisha, (800m); Wilson Kipsang, Abel Kirui, Florence Kiplagat, Edna Kiplagat and Mary Keitany (Marathon) and Asbel Kiprop (1,500m) to name but a few.

- Xinhua

Tags athletics

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